The latest rage for home entertainment systems is Google’s $35 Chromecast. The company hopes it will be the new living room entertainment device of the future. One thing it’s not designed to do is stream non web-based content. But with an extension and a little know how, you can stream your local files to it.
Out of the box the Chromecast allows you to send YouTube, Netflix, and music, TV, and movies from Google Play. Compared to the Roku, Apple TV, or Xbox 360, it currently doesn’t have much to offer. But here are some ways to get more content to your HDTV via the Chromecast.
After you set up Chromecast on your Android device you’ll have the option to download apps that allow you send content to Chromecast.
Stream Local Media from Your PC to Chromecast
Install the Google Cast extension in your Chrome browser. Then start playing the video or music file you want to stream in the browser.
In my tests I’ve been able to play MPEG, MPG, MP4, M4V, OGG, MP3, and AVI files. I tested several MKV files, and the video would stream, but without sound. No love for FLAC files either.
If the media plays in the Chrome browser, click the Google Cast button and send it to your HDTV.
Here’s and example of streaming an MP3 file.
You can even stream compatible media files from Google Drive.
The quality of the stream will depend on the state of your WiFi router and amount of traffic on the network. If you’re having streaming problems, change the options to a lower quality setting. Or, if things are streaming well, you can increase the quality – up to 720p only though.
You’ll also want to make the video display in full screen mode so it shows larger on your HDTV. Otherwise it displays in at a smaller aspect ratio which isn’t that ideal for viewing.
Then hit Esc to exit full screen. In this example I’m streaming a video from my home server which is cool that you can stream from network locations too.
A few more things to note about the Chromecast. While all the images of it give the impression you just plug in the stick in to an HDMI port on your TV, you also have to connect it to a power source. It comes with the power cord that connects like a smartphone. This is kind of annoying in my opinion, but doesn’t necessarily make it a deal breaker.
I was considering giving the device a mediocre review until I discovered this workaround for streaming local media. In fact, a lot of the media I tested for this article I streamed directly from my Windows Home Server. It’s also worth noting that there’s an app for your iPhone or iPad and it seems to work as advertised.
Still, there is a lot of room for improvement with this new device. If you already have a Roku or Apple TV that you use as your set-top box, there’s not much of a reason to get the Chromecast unless you’re like me, a cord cutter, and want another toy to watch videos and listen to music.
Are you using a Chromecast? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think about it.